Commercial fishing boats pull up a net chock-full of menhaden. Photo Credit: John Surrick/CBF Staff

Battling for the Bunker

You'll likely never see menhaden featured on a menu, but there's a reason they're often called "the most important fish in the sea." A small, oily fish packed with nutritional value, menhaden are a critical link in the marine food web. Valuable fish like rockfish rely heavily on menhaden as do whales, osprey, and other marine mammals and seabirds.

A strong menhaden stock benefits everybody, from fish, birds, and crabs to watermen, anglers, and all of us who love Chesapeake seafood. That's why for more than 20 years, with the invaluable support of our members, CBF has fought tirelessly for better management of this important resource.

This fall, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the group of Atlantic coastal state representatives that manages and conserves nearshore fish species, accepted public comments on proposed changes to its menhaden management plan. Advocating for a strong, ecosystem-based management plan for menhaden, CBF supporters sent more than 14,000 letters to ASMFC, and busloads of passionate advocates came from all over the watershed to the ASMFC meeting in Baltimore this November.

While the ASMFC unfortunately voted to continue with the status quo for managing the menhaden fishery, a significant victory for the Bay was achieved near the end of the two-day meeting when the Commission voted to decrease the Chesapeake Bay reduction fishery cap by 41.5 percent. CBF's Maryland Fisheries Scientist Allison Colden successfully argued that because of ongoing ecological concerns, the Bay's menhaden need further protection with a reduction in the fishery cap.

Although the ASMFC commission members voted to delay the ecosystem-based approach to managing "the most important fish in the sea," they voiced broad support for adopting this management approach when their analysis is complete in two years. Rest assured, with our incredible members by our side, we're going to hold them to it!

Why Are Menhaden "The Most Important Fish in the Sea"?

Menhaden Podcasts

We took a deep dive into menhaden as part of our biweekly podcast series, Turning the Tide. Listen to CBF scientists Allison Colden (The Most Important Fish) and Chris Moore (A Mixed Bag for Menhaden) discuss the critical importance of menhaden and the future of "the most important fish in the sea."

Sidebar Photo: Robert Miller.